When I moved to New York in the late 80s with a dream of playing music in the Big Apple, I had tons of friends from almost every Latin American country EXCEPT the Dominican Republic. As to Caribbean styles, I was very familiar with Puerto Rican and Cuban music, and but knew nothing about Dominican musical lore. I got my first taste of Merengue and Bachata working for J & N Records starting in 1990. Later on, I stumbled into playing tenor sax in merengue bands in the City. In short order I fell in love with everything about this exotic, wonderful, idiosyncratic island – the music, the soulful regional accents, my friends and fellow musicians, and their constant good-humored teasing that made life a blast on the road.
It always astounded me that such a tiny island, where folks were not frequently born into families with means and opportunity, excelled in music at such a high level, basically learning in the “University of the Streets.” When I delved into merengue, I was able to appreciate the amazing virtuosity of the musicians, particularly those select few who recorded so beautifully, so perfectly, at breakneck speed – sax players that defy anatomy with impossible articulations, keyboardists who somehow avoid carpal tunnel syndrome, smoking, versatile percussionists, amazing vocalists, slamming base players. The prowess of so many of my musical buddies – singers, songwriters, arrangers, conceptual gurus - all bound together in one magical person – made me reflect on the comforts so many of us take for granted as citizens of United States. We, more often than not, have opportunities to study with crème of the crop professors, and to go to the best schools. Even if our families are low-income, if we show talent, there are always scholarships and endowments available.
I have always felt that learning Spanish was the most fantastic endeavor of my life. I have been able to meet and engage in deep dialogue with people from around the Latino world – people I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. It has been a privilege.
However, above all, I owe more to the Dominican Republic than any place else – so much culturally, musically, and in the forever friends I have grown close to and cherished over more than two decades.
So, on this day, and from the heart – Happy Independence Day to the Dominican Republic! !Qué viva la República Dominicana!
- Posted on:
- Feb 27th, 2017